The Year of the Dog

Written by: Grace Lin


For parents of independent readers, we provide a set of questions that should give you insight into what your child is reading and help you engage him/her in meaningful conversations about literature. The plot summary is meant to give you a general understanding of the storyline, allowing you to have more meaningful discussion with your child. We recommend using the questions provided here as a springboard for deeper conversation about The Year of the Dog and what your child takes away from the book. Enjoy!

Plot Summary

As Pacy helps her mother prepare for their Chinese New Year dinner, she learns about the Year of the Dog and what this year could have in store for her. This is the year for making friends and learning about yourself and what you want to do with your life. Pacy begins to feel pressured to find what she is good at and goes in search for her talent. At school, she makes a new friend, Melody, who is Taiwanese-American just like her. They find that while they do have this in common, there are several differences between them. One of these differences is that Pacy cannot speak Chinese while Melody can, and Pacy gets teased for this by her classmates. She ultimately finds that her talent is writing and illustrating when she wins fourth place in a national contest for student writers. As the year of the dog comes to an end, Pacy realizes that she had a great year and that she learned a lot about herself in the process.

Discussion Questions

1. How is the Chinese New Year that Pacy's family celebrates different from the New Year that you celebrate? What are some of Pacy's family's traditions? Does your family have any special traditions? If so, what are they?

2. Why did Pacy feel pressured to find her talent this year?

3. What made Pacy begin writing her book? What was her story about? 

4. How are Pacy and Melody similar? How are they different? Why is Pacy teased by her classmates at school? Have you ever been teased for being different? How did you handle it? How does Pacy handle it?

5. What is Pacy's talent? How does she realize this? What are your talents? When did you realize that you were good at _________?

6. Be sure to read the Author's Notes once you have finished the story. What motivated Grace Lin to write this story? How was it similar to her childhood? 

7.  Check out these Chinese horoscopes to discover what lunar year you are. Does the summary provided for your year describe you well? Why or why not?


Above all, be sure to engage your child in a discussion about the plot line and his/her thoughts and feelings about the book. Ask what s/he likes, encourage exploration related to the book, and every now and again, offer to read parts of the book aloud, just for fun!